In my work, I have the distinct pleasure of engaging with wonderful people who love their dogs and want the best for them. That’s why they call me!
From these conversations, some common themes come up frequently. Sometimes the information is untrue, or based on outdated information about behavior and training. This misinformation can damage our relationships with dogs and hinder training.
My dog is too old to learn.
Not so. Although older dogs may take longer to learn a new behavior, they retain the new information just as well as younger dogs.
A study published in the scientific journal Age in 2016 by Wallis et. al., studied 95 Border Collies ranging in age from five months to 13 years, all of whom were pet dogs. It was one of a series of investigations of dog behavior conducted at the “Clever Dog Lab”. The dogs were tested using a touch screen apparatus on discrimination tasks, reasoning, and memory.
The findings of this research indicate that you can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes a bit longer. And this is good news for all of us!
My dog does not need walks, she has a big yard.
Although it is great if your dog has a nice yard or big area to play and explore, they need more to be happy and healthy. Just being outside does not mean they get enough exercise or mental stimulation.
Each dog needs different amounts of exercise depending on breed, age, size and health. Just like us, dogs need to move and get their heart pumping daily, and they need a balance of mental stimulation and physical activity.
Generally, your dog needs between 3 and 6 hours of mental and physical activity per day to be healthy. There are many fun activities to do with your dog that take little effort on your part. Find out more about your dog’s exercise needs here.
To be successful in training my dog I need to be more dominant or “Alpha”.
This is a very popular idea but it is based on wolf research that most agree is outdated. According to David Mech, Wolf Biologist, “One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. ‘Alpha’ implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle.” We’ve since learned that wolves are generally organized in family units and the leaders are typically the parents and rest of the family composes the pack. They do not fight or use aggression to gain authority.
Not only is the idea that we need to dominate our dogs based on outdated ideas it is also based on the idea that dogs are socialized wolves. While dogs and wolves share certain traits and characteristics due to their evolutionary history they differ in many ways.
What new research shows is that we do not need to dominate our dogs to train them. Dog training that is based on these erroneous ideas of “dominance theory” is usually unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Need a little inspiration?
I send out emails occasionally with news of upcoming classes as well as tips and resources. Your privacy is important to me. Your information will remain confidential.
Debbie Lewis, MS
I educate and support people as they deepen their understanding of their pet's behavior to create happy, healthy pet-people relationships.